Instant rice is a product in which white rice is partially precooked, dehydrated, and repackaged in dried form similar in appearance to regular white rice. That process allows the product to be later cooked as if it were normal rice but with a typical cooking time of 5 minutes, compared to the 20-30 minute preparation time for white rice (or yet longer for brown rice). This process was invented by Ataullah K. Ozai‐Durrani in 1939 and mass marketed by General Foods starting in 1946 as Minute Rice, a brand which continues until this day.
This is not to be confused with pre-cooked (but not dehydrated) "micro-wave" ready rice which is fully cooked and ready to eat, normally after placing the sealed product in a microwave oven, requiring as little as 1 minute to heat a single portion. Another distinct product is parboiled rice, also known as "converted" rice, a term trademarked for what was long sold as Uncle Ben's converted rice. However unlike the pre-cooking of instant rice in order to reduce the cooking time of white rice, the parboiling process is applied directly to brown rice in order to preserve nutrients which are lost in the production of white rice, not to reduce cooking time.
Instant rice is made using several methods. The most common method is similar to the home cooking process. The rice is blanched in hot water, steamed, and rinsed. It is then placed in large ovens for dehydration until the moisture content reaches approximately twelve percent or less. The basic principle involves using hot water or steam to form cracks or holes in the kernels before dehydrating. In the subsequent cooking, water can more easily penetrate into the cracked grain, allowing for a short cooking time.
The notable advantage of instant rice is the rapid cooking time: some brands can be ready in as little as three minutes. Currently, several companies, Asian as well as American, have developed brands which only require 90 seconds to cook, much like a cup of instant noodles.
However instant rice is more expensive than regular white rice due to the cost of the processing. And the "cracking" process can lead to a significant increase in broken grains in a package. Like all white rice, instant rice has nutrients removed that are present in brown rice, and soluble minerals can be lost when rice is rinsed; of course, just like white rice, the product can be enriched to restore B-vitamins and other nutrients. Instant rice has fewer of the calories, carbohydrates[dubious ], and protein than regular white rice. The quicker cooking method can result in the rice being less firm in texture than regular rice, and the processing results in a loss of flavor, for which reasons it is quite disparaged by chefs.